Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY
My family recently hosted my cousin and her husband as she passed through WNY from her home in Ohio on her way to Rochester. As we prepared the guest room—which functions as a fort, puzzle room, and stage for my children’s various productions most of the time—my daughter, Quinn, asked us a question about why we set aside the room above the garage for our guests. The thing about this room is that it is the largest of all our bedrooms. It has vaulted ceilings, cute décor, and (and this is the real head shaker for Quinn) it is the only room in our house we furnish with a window unit air conditioner. So, while the rest of our house is 80 degrees, this room is climate controlled. Naturally Quinn and most people might wonder, “Why do our guests get the best room in our house?” Or as Quinn put it, “Why do people who don’t even live here get the best room?”
The answer, of course, is we long to be hospitable. We want our guests to feel comfortable, and not just comfortable, but valued.
There’s a Bible passage from Matthew that talks about the importance of being welcoming. Jesus says in Chapter 10, 40″Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; 42and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
Even reading it quickly here, I am sure you were struck with how many times Jesus mentions the word “welcome” in three short verses. One thing that is lost as we read this all by itself is that it comes after other words from Jesus to his disciples about how dangerous the world can be at times. He warns them they will feel like sheep amongst wolves. He talks about betrayals and arrests and persecutions. It’s not a pretty picture, but then it ends with this little passage about hospitality. It ends with a reminder that even though the world can be tough sometimes, we can be a place of refuge, safety, and comfort for those people who cross our paths.
Jesus’ words about being welcoming make two points clear and both point to the same thing: our welcoming should be universal. From prophets to little kids, he says. He might have said from the powerful and influential people you encounter to those the world deems inconsequential, welcome them. And, from big things like opening your home to little things like cold glasses of water, be welcoming.
Too often the world can make us feel like sheep among wolves. Children used to have to go to school to feel malice and judgement of others, but now thanks to cell phones they can be picked on at home too. And, even as adults we’ve spent at least a moment in our lives too aware of what the expression “they’re out to get me” means. Scams, jealousy, road rage, gossip, betrayal and more. We’ve been on the receiving end of intentional and inadvertent malice, but it is because the world is too full of that that Jesus offers us the alternative. Jesus invites us to be the alternative. To be welcoming.
So may we welcome those around us. Those we know and love. Those we want to know and love. And those we do not know. Those we may never see again. Those who even though we welcome them can offer us nothing in return.
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